BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge on Friday rejected several arguments brought by opponents of a proposed first-in-the-nation offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound but ordered the government to review claims that the Cape Wind project could pose risks to migratory birds and the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton in Washington, D.C., won praise from both sides, with Cape Wind calling it a "major victory" and opponents predicting it would be a significant setback that could further delay financing and the start of construction.
The judge turned aside a series of legal challenges to the project from several groups, including Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Alliance for Nantucket Sound and the Wampanoag tribe of Aquinnah. The claims sought to overturn environmental clearances the company had received to build the $2.6 billion, 130-turbine renewable energy project off Cape Cod.
Cape Wind chief executive Jim Gordon said the ruling upholds the first offshore wind lease granted in 2010 by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
"It clears the way for completing the financing of a project that will diversify New England's electricity portfolio by harnessing our abundant and inexhaustible supply of offshore winds," Gordon said in a statement.
The judge, in his ruling, didn't suggest the project would cause harm to the whales or protected migratory birds such as the piping plover and roseate tern. But he did say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act by not making an independent evaluation of plans for a seasonal shutdown of the wind farm's rotors to avoid possible collisions with the birds.